Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Home drums still beating


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LAST WEDNESDAY’s draft picks in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 Tournament were another reminder of the insular thinking which still permeates West Indies cricket.
In Pool A of the draft, the Antigua, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago franchises opted for Barbados’ fast bowling trio Kemar Roach, Tino Best and Fidel Edwards respectively – all West Indies players.
Antigua also chose Windward Islands and West Indies One-Day and T20 opener Johnson Charles, in a move which must have surprised the St Lucia franchise, who had no option but to select veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Guyana wasted little time in securing the services of West Indies’ first-choice wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin and his Trinidadian teammate Lendl Simmons.
What was noticeable was that Barbados, after missing the chance to pick Roach, Best or Edwards, opted for two fast bowlers from Trinidad in Shannon Gabriel and Rayad Emrit, who is no slouch with the bat.
On the flip side, it was encouraging to see Trinidad and Tobago embracing out-of-favour West Indies left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn and emerging Barbados fast bowler Miguel Cummins, who is yet to play a regional T20.
But generally, most franchises, especially when it came to selections from Pool B and C, opted for players from within their territory. Hence, St Lucia ended up with as many as ten players from the Windward Islands in their 15-man squad. The only outsiders were the South African duo, Herschelle Gibbs and Albie Morkel, Tamim Iqbal of Bangladesh, Chanderpaul and Best.
There are also ten Jamaicans in the franchise from the Land of Wood And Water while both Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago have eight players from their country. Guyana have seven Guyanese and Antigua, a similar number from the Leeward Islands, who have been the whipping boys of regional cricket in recent years. It is noteworthy that apart from their three international players – Mohammed Hafeez, James Franklyn and Martin Guptill – the Guyana franchise only went for players from Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.  
That none of the six franchises opted for the experienced former Barbados captain and West Indies player Ryan Hinds was surprising but not entirely unexpected, given his recent treatment by the Barbados selectors. Even though his returns in the T20 format with the bat – an average of 19.90 and a strike rate of 91.28 are somewhat below expectations – his left-arm spin bowling has been far more effective than most of the spinners in the West Indies who have gained selection with a commendable economy rate of 5.98 runs an over. He has taken 24 wickets at an average of 15.91 in 23 T20s.
Another surprise was that promising wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich did not attract the attention of any of the franchises. But his batting average of 18.11 and strike rate of 72.12 with a highest score of 23 not out in 14 T20s are nothing to really justify inclusion either.
However, what makes Dowrich’s omission even conspicuous is that with Barbados and St Lucia there is not a specialist wicket-keeper among the selectees. Trinidad and Tobago also went for Nicholas Pooran, who only played a couple of T20s against Canada earlier this year, instead of someone like Steven Katwaroo.
Jamaica are blessed with both Carlton Baugh and Chadwick Walton while Antigua, after initially selecting Devon Thomas, also went for a second ’keeper in Jahmar Hamilton. Andre Fletcher will more than likely do the job for St Lucia while either Umar Akmal or Jonathan Carter, both part-timers, would probably be pressed into service for Barbados.
Apart from Hinds and Dowrich, Shamarh Brooks, Justin Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Javon Searles, who were members of Barbados’ last T20 squad, were also overlooked, along with the hard-hitting pair of Alcindo Holder and Martin Nurse. Searles, in particular, with an average of 13.23 and an economy rate of 6.14 runs an over, after taking 13 wickets in ten T20s, can consider himself to be unlucky not to be snapped up.
Even though the CPL?is welcomed with its lucrative sponsorships, as reigning ICC Twenty20 champions, the West Indies still need to expose a wider pool of players to this format.
With no regional T20 competition for them to boost their credentials, it is important that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) look at having their own T20 competition among the six traditional cricket-playing territories, which can be used as a gauge for selection to the CPL.
A two-week window should be left open for such a competition in January, before the start of the regional first-class season. I also strongly believe that the Regional Super50 should be played as a stand-alone competition in October instead of playing it alongside the four-day tournament, as was the case this year.
I’m not privy to the figures on the cost of air travel and hotel accommodation and whether there was a significant reduction in expenses, but with the number of free days in between matches, somehow I don’t believe there was any significant saving.
With a businessman in the young and energetic Dave Cameron taking over as president from the ageing Julian Hunte, the WICB, which now has a newly constituted Marketing and Business Development Committee, must also improve its marketing and sponsorship drive to have these tournaments sponsored.


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